Have you heard of LOLcats? Do you use Reddit or 4chan? If your answer is no to both of these questions, then you are probably unfamiliar with the term ‘meme’. Many times, I’ve seen people stare blankly when ‘meme’ has been used in conversation. The majority ask how the word is spelt, and then continue to look confused…
So what does it meme?
This weekend I read a good definition of ‘meme’ in The Sunday Times Magazine, so I thought I’d share it to help lift the lid once and for all on the term.
So here we go – “Meme: Rhymes with cream. Describes something that’s gone viral. The term was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. He came up with ‘meme’ as the cultural counterpart to a “gene”.
His examples included things passed down over generations: catchphrases, tunes, how to make pots, etc. Anything that spreads online – from Gangnam Style videos to surfing cats – is now labelled a “meme” the moment someone likes it on Facebook. In our disposable society, most memes are extinct in days.”
Reddit and Facebook are examples of platforms where memes are constantly created and shared. Indeed, there are even websites designed to help you easilly create your own meme to add to the mix, for example quickmeme.com. Some memes have been around for years whilst others come and go within hours. Popular memes include:
“First World Problems”:
According to knowyourmeme.com, ‘First World Problems are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences’. E.g. –
“Socially Awkward Penguin”:
Socially Awkward Penguin is ‘an ‘advice animal’ image macro series featuring a penguin lacking both social skills and self esteem. The text typically narrates uncomfortable life situations, highlighting an exceptionally clumsy or inelegant response’.
Success Kid began life as a holiday snap in 2008 before becoming a widespread meme, used to demonstrate success as an ‘advice animal’ style image macro with captions:
Indeed, Virgin Media even utilised the popularity of this meme by releasing a billboard ad featuring the little fella in a red and white top. Read more on that at newrisingmedia.com.
“Overly Attached Girlfriend”:
Overly Attached Girlfriend ‘is an advice macro featuring a webcam picture of a girl and various captions portraying her in the stereotype of an overprotective clingy girlfriend’.
Marketing with memes?
Anybody can make and share a meme, and they are rife wherever you look on the internet. Brands can be featured in memes, such as the star of the Old Spice virals, however generally, these are created by consumers as a result of an impactful campaign:
In this way, you can see which brands have struck a chord with consumers and gain a sense of their reputation and social standing, whether positive or negative.
For more information on marketing with memes (without forcing it), and what causes a meme to resonate with people, I recommend this read at Blueglass.com.
Please feel free to add your thoughts on the subject and post your favourite memes below!